Zakiya Acey: We need to be able to get what we need in a way that we can actually consume it

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

The student learns nothing when the student is a consumer. Learning means maturing. Learning means becoming the change that one wants to see.

Interesting, but problematic:

Acey, who insists that Karega’s posts were more anti-Zionist than anti-Semitic, thinks professors often hide their racial biases. “But they’ll vote in a way that does not benefit the students,” he says. “Like, the way the courses are set up. You know, we’re paying for a service. We’re paying for our attendance here. We need to be able to get what we need in a way that we can actually consume it.” He pauses. “Because I’m dealing with having been arrested on campus, or having to deal with the things that my family are going through because of larger systems—having to deal with all of that, I can’t produce the work that they want me to do. But I understand the material, and I can give it to you in different ways. There’s professors who have openly been, like, ‘Yeah, instead of, you know, writing out this midterm, come in to my office hours, and you can just speak it,’ right? But that’s not institutionalized. I have to find that professor.”

Also, things are trickier now than in the past. “In the sixties and seventies, you saw an attack on oppression,” Acey says. “How do we stop this from happening ever again? Then you have the introduction of multiculturalism: Let’s satisfy this. Let’s pretend we’re going to be diverse. Whereas what college does now is—”

“It separates us,” Adams says.

“It separates us, but it makes us busy. 24/7.”

“Also, we’re the generation that has more identities to encompass in our movement,” Adams says. “No shade to civil rights, but it was a little misogynistic. It had women in the back. A lot of other identities—trans folks and all that—were not really included. And we’re the generation that’s trying to incorporate everybody.”

“And we’re tired!” Slay says.

“That takes work,” Adams agrees.

“We do our work in the middle of the night,” Slay says.

“We meet at 11 p.m., and stay up till two o’clock in the morning doing work, and go to nine-o’clock class, and do that over and over and over,” Adams says. “We don’t sleep. We rarely eat the food at—”

“We’re not even compensated financially, so that’s a lot,” Slay says.

“The older generations have been desensitized,” Acey adds.

“Desensitized!” Adams says.

“It’s, like, ‘This is what the world is.’ ”

“ ‘It’s been this way since the fifties.’ ”

Acey says, “We understand this institution to be an arm of—”

“Oppression,” Adams offers.

“The capitalist process,” Acey goes on. “We go through this professionalization through the university. And this professionalization is to work really unnecessary jobs.”

“When I came here, I’m, like, ‘Where are the people who are disabled?’ ” Adams says. “I know so many disabled people at home.”

She shakes her head. “It does not reflect the real world.”

…Many also speak of urges to leave due to a fraying in their mental health, a personal price paid for the systemic stresses of campus life. I ask Krislov about this, and he glances in the direction of his bookshelf, which is adorned with toy cars and a motorcycle made from old Sprite cans. Both of his shoes are untied. “I don’t know if it’s related to the way we parent, I don’t know if it’s related to the media or the pervasive role of technology—I’m sure there are a lot of different factors—but what I can tell you is that every campus I know is investing more resources in mental health,” he says. (Data confirm this.) Maybe it’s the pressure of school, he says, but maybe it also has to do with a welcoming gate. “Students are coming to campuses today with mental-health challenges that in some instances have been diagnosed and in some instances have not. Maybe, in previous eras, those students would not have been coming to college.” He pauses thoughtfully. “That’s all to the good, in terms of society, because it means that we are bringing in people to be productive and capable and supporting them.”

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